"It's a bit like farting in the conference room"
That's a quote from MarketingSherpa's latest weekly newsletter. It's the best way I've ever heard someone describe the futility of blasting out email campaigns to a list of "prospects," who haven't given you their permission to email them. Farting in the conference room will indeed get you some attention (and I can vouch for that) but is it the kind of attention you want? Trust me, the answer is no.
So you've got a list of prospects. Maybe they're old customers. Maybe they're leads that you collected at a tradeshow. Maybe they're people who downloaded a whitepaper from your website. Now what? It's tempting to just start sending them emails, right? Email marketing is so cheap, right? But you need to get their permission first. That sounds like a hassle, but it's a great way to 1) filter out the people who don't want to hear from you, and 2) qualify the people who really, really want to hear from you. MarketingSherpa has a great case study on how one company does this:
CSS in HTML Email - Detailed Breakdown
If you've ever wanted a detailed breakdown of every tiny little CSS thingy that works or doesn't work in HTML email, here ya go (sent to us by Kevin over at Pivot+Levy). Thanks, Kevin!
If you liked that article, you're a geek. That's okay, we are too. So you might also like:
I know a lot of our MailChimp customers and friends are web designers, or run their own websites. So we thought we'd tell you about the Pixel Awards. It's a cool new web award contest with a really kick ass trophy (that's a picture to the right).
And there's a category for everyone:
- Las Vegas
I'm drooling over that trophy. Too cool. Anyways, if you've got a website that fits into one of those categories, you should enter. Be sure to tell your friends about the award, too. Sign up for their email newsletter for updates (they use MailChimp!).
Pitching to Reporters (via Email)
It's a good interview, but it didn't cover emailing pitches to reporters.
So we sent Mr.Lashinsky a few questions for our MonkeyBrains audience...
Here's the real reason we contacted Mr. Lashinsky. We've read in the past that reporters absolutely, positively, hate email press releases. And they hate HTML email press releases even more. But that was so long ago. Is it still the case? And would it be worthwhile for our MailChimp customers (or any email marketer) to setup an opt-in list on their website "to receive company news and email press releases?" Or are reporters so overwhelmed with email pitches that they never bother subscribing to them?
With that in mind, here's what we asked Mr. Lashinsky:
Q: How badly do you, as a reporter, want to punch someone for sending you unsolicited email press releases? I'm hoping the answer is "extremely."
A: I really don't mind unsolicited emails at all. Much better than a phone call, which I hate. I scan and delete all day long. So it's no big deal.
Q: As a reporter, do you ever subscribe to email newsletters or opt-in to receive press releases from companies?
A: I do. Certain big companies have me on their press release list. And again, I appreciate it. It's not difficult to delete the emails. I subscribe to quite a few opt-in lists myself. Things like the New York Post business section and Venture Wire. Same thing. Very easy for me to scan and delete.
Q: Are you totally bombarded by useless press release emails?
A: Well, yes.
Q: If you actually do read email pitches, do you prefer HTML email, or plain-text?
A: Six of one, half a dozen of the other. (No, I don't have a preference.)
Hmm. So maybe reporters don't hate unsolicited pitches via email afterall. Keep in mind there's a HUGE difference between sending one email to a reporter vs. "blasting" an unsolicited press release to a whole list of reporters. The first one is email. The second one is spam (check out this recent example of a PR agency that spammed a blogger).
But it does seem like reporters definitely prefer email over phone calls (read the Guy Kawasaki interview to get insight into how much "noise" reporters put up with).
Email's simply more convenient for reporters. Email marketers can take advantage of this by creating opt-in lists on their websites that are specifically for the media.
Examples of Opt-in Lists Built for the Press
You might want to setup a separate "Press Room" opt-in list for your own company. Here are some examples you can use for ideas:
What happens if you never check your email open rate
I recently gave a guest lecture for a class of web design students at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Man, those students were smart, and their school made mine look like crap! I've never seen so many Powermacs and giant flat panel displays and high-end printers (droooooling).
Anyways, I had to put together some email marketing case studies for them, so we've been running reports across MailChimp, and finding some really interesting stuff. I thought I'd share a few of my slides (over the next few days) here on MonkeyBrains.
Below is an example of "What happens when you send an email newsletter every week for 2 years, and never check your campaign reports, and never, ever tweak your content."
It's a graph of one MailChimp user's open rate since 2004. Basically, this newsletter got no love:
This user has been sending regular email campaigns for years with MailChimp, and apparently hasn't been watching their stats as much as they should. They started off pretty nice (40% open rate) but their open rate eventually fell to about 8%. Keep in mind it's normal to start off with a bang, but then your open rate will usually level off to around 20-30%. After drawing this graph, we called up the user and gave them a little advice: 1) Stop sending so frequently, 2) Make your content worth reading, and 3) Check your open and click stats after every single campaign.
Do you analyze your reports after every single campaign? What's a "normal" open rate for your emails? Are you trending up, or down over time?
Speaking of Email Reports
If you're sending email marketing, how often do you check your campaign reports? Do you understand what all the stats mean? Do you know how to experiment with your campaigns to improve your performance? Do you know what you should even be measuring?
If you're new to email marketing, and need some help understanding your email reports, we've got a new free guide called, "Cool, I'm getting clicks and opens. Um, now what?" It's got everything a beginner needs to know about tracking email opens and clicks, and more importantly, what to do with all that information.
Download it here: Free 23-page Guide: Understanding Email Reports (1 Meg PDF)
10 Tips for Better Sign-up Forms
Free Guide: Understanding Email Campaign Reports
Dan: Hi, this is Dan at MailChimp, how can I help you?
Customer: Yeah, I just sent my first email campaign, and I'm wondering where my reports are, and when I can come back and see if anybody clicked and opened.
Dan: Sure thing. Are you looking at the "Campaigns" screen right now?
Dan: Okay, click the little stats icon to the right of your campaign, and you'll be taken to your campaign report screen.
Customer: Oh, I see. You mean I can already start looking at them?
Customer: (screaming) HOLY $#@&^% I'm getting clicks! People are already opening my email!
Dan: Yes, you'll always get these immediate opens and clicks, but you might wait a few days to really analyze your re---
Customer: COOL!!! More people just clicked!!! Oh my God, this is just awesome. Look at that!!! Another open!!!!
And that's pretty much how the call went. It was hilarious. This is actually a really common phenomenon with new email marketers. Sending an email, then seeing people open and click is really fascinating. But we want to make sure that people truly understand their email reports, and what's happening with their campaigns. That they always go back and experiment with their campaigns to improve response. That after every campaign, they not only look at their stats, but also listen to the cash register---did it go, "cha-ching?" And if it didn't go "cha-ching," how can they tweak their next campaign?
So we put together this new (free) guide: "Cool. I'm getting clicks and opens! Um, now what?" (1M PDF). It helps new email marketers understand the basics of campaign reports, how to diagnose unhealthy campaigns, and what they can do to experiment and improve results.
"I Need 21 Rocket Brooms by April 2nd"
As some of you may know, MailChimp is a product of The Rocket Science Group. We normally don't link over to The RSG Blog from here, but this post is just too adorable not to share.
Pitching to Reporters
Ever thought about blasting unsolicited email press releases out to reporters, in the hopes that they'll actually cover you? If so, punch yourself in the groin.
Then, check out this blog:
Guy Kawasaki interviews Adam Lashinsky (reporter for Fortune Magazine covering the Silicon Valley beat). Nuggets of wisdom in this article for any small business looking to get some press coverage. In short, assume that reporters already get slammed with pitches and bribes by email, fax, mail, and telephone. Then, try cutting through the clutter by sending content that's actually useful. A few of the questions Guy asks:
- How do you pick what to cover?
- How many companies or their PR firms pitch you per day?
- What's the most common mistake that companies and their PR firms make when they pitch you?
- By contrast, how would you describe the perfect pitch?
- Does schwag and suckups (cookies, tshirts, flowers, invites to swanky parties) matter at all to you?